Frequency of Potentially Distracting Behaviors Not Involving Technology

While driver behaviors involving technology such as cell phones, pagers, and Internet accessing devices have come into the forefront recently as important driver distractions, drivers continue to engage in many potentially distracting behaviors that do not involve these types of equipment.

Frequency of Conversing with Passengers

The overwhelming majority (81%) of drivers talk to other passengers while driving, with 47% doing so on about three-quarters or more of all driving trips and an additional 34% conversing with other passengers on about one-quarter to one-half of their trips.
[Figure 5-A]

Male and female drivers are equally likely to talk with passengers while driving. [Figure 5-B]

While older drivers are slightly less likely to talk to passengers while driving than younger drivers, about three-quarters of those over age 45 still engage in this activity. [Figure 5-C]

Frequency of Other Behaviors Not Involving Technology

Nearly one in four (24%) drivers deal with children in the back seat of the car while driving. One in ten (10%) say they engage in this action on the majority of their trips, while an additional 14% do so on about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips. [Figure 5-A] This behavior can be especially distracting if the driver actually turns around to adjust the occupants or pick up a lost toy or offer food.
Female drivers are more likely to address the needs of children in the back seat while driving (29% as compared to 20% of males). [Figure 5-B] While participation in most potentially distracting behaviors is highest among younger cohorts and decreases with age, dealing with small children is highest among drivers in their 30s and early 40s and drops off significantly among those age 45 or older. [Figure 5-C]

While one in four drivers engage in this behavior, more than six in ten (62%) drivers who are parents or guardians of children 12 or younger display this behavior, with 30% doing so on a majority of their trips, and 32% doing so on about one-quarter to one-half of their driving trips. Slightly less than one in ten (9%) drivers who are not parents or guardians of young children also engage in this behavior at least occasionally. These drivers may be addressing the needs of grandchildren, children under their supervision, or others' children. [Figure 5-D]

Frequency of Other Behaviors Not Involving Technology

Half of all drivers (49%) report eating or drinking at least occasionally while driving, with 14% doing so on three-quarters or more of their driving trips. Relatively fewer drivers report engaging in the other behaviors measured, with 8% engaging in personal grooming (such as putting on make-up, shaving, or looking in the mirror), 12% looking at maps or directions, and 4% reading printed material (such as a book, newspaper, or mail).

Female drivers are three times more likely to engage in personal grooming (13% as compared to 4% of males), and are slightly more likely to eat or drink while driving. [Figure 5-B]

Participation in these behaviors is generally highest among younger drivers and tapers off with age, with very few drivers over 64 engaging in these behaviors. [Figure 5-C]

Figure 20 in Appendix B presents a comparison of the proportion of the population who reported a specific frequency of behavior and the corresponding mean number of trips these drivers make undertaking the behavior.